I was born in a small bungalow called “Suvla* in Benton Drive, Laindon, on Primrose Hill – a small plot of bungalows and weekend bungalows. We were a poor family but my brother, sister and I had loving parents. My father had returned from the war in Dunkirk a sick man, but he and my mother were survivors (however that is another story).
When I was at a young age my mother used to take me to visit our neighbours and I had to call them Aunt Rose and Uncle Will. Their bungalow was called “Homelands* and they had three children, David (the eldest), Barbara next and Brian the youngest. Their surname was Cordell. Aunt Rose was a quiet and friendly lady and Uncle Will was an”old school* motor cyclist. He had motor cycles and bits of bikes everywhere. Brian and I would watch as he restored, altered and changed such as Matchless, Norton, Ariel, Ridge, Calthrope bikes and many more. He would play his mouth organ and jaws harp and tell us great stores about motorcycling. This was the start of our love of motorcycles.
One of the greatest treats for me was when Uncle Will would ask Brian and I if we would like to go for a ride on his combination. We would jump in an old box on the side of the Matchless, put on our goggles and away we would go. One place we went to was North Weald Aerodrome where we would watch the Gloster Meteors take off. In later years we would cycle there.
We also cycled to a bikers’ cafe called The Cottage which was later renamed “The Blinking Owl*, where we met all the older bikers. The forecourt would be packed with motorcyclists and bikes from all over the surrounding area.
Brian’s brother David was doing an apprenticeship with Rotary Hoes with friends Brian Reynolds and Ted Crudgington. Dave was a chip off the old block and he was always in the shed making something or other, sometimes riding out on his 500 Matchless, then one day I heard the tragic news that Dave had been killed in an accident on his motorbike at Southend. It was a great loss.
As time passed by the Basildon Development Corporation wanted to develop the Primrose Hill Estate and we then had to move. Brian moved to Osboume Road and I moved to Florence Road and as the years passed by we both had our own bikes and met up at the Fortune of War. It became the “in* place to meet up with people like Brian Reynolds and Dave Flashman. Others were like-minded old school friends like Ron Herbert, Malcolm Payne, Eddie Morris, Dave and Fred Rand, Ken Page, Stan Parish, Clive Holmes, Ernie Byron, Brian Swan and some younger guys. There were, of course, girlfriends who made up the numbers for pillion riders. We visited all the local cafes like The Ace on the North Circular Road, The Blinking Owl, The Green Tiles, The Woodlands and many more. In the summer months we would go to Walton-on-the-Naze and travel to all the race circuits.
Those were the great motor cycling times but, as time passed by and the original group got married (including myself) and moved away or went overseas, I lost touch with Brian (my special friend) for a few years. We both raised our families during this time and then one day I was working on a local house when this guy said *l know you – you were one of the Bikers from Primrose Hill” and he was able to tell me where Brian was working. There we were – soon to be reunited. He had moved to Stanford-le-Hope, still riding a Matchless and still friends with Brian Swan. One of the first things he did was to lend me a restored BSA A7 so we could ride out. I then bought a Triumph Tiger 10GSS and set about restoring it. I took the engine to Ted Crudgington to be rebuilt. This was then the start of another great friendship. Brian found a Norton Dommi in an orchard and it came with an inter-engine. He started the restoration with help from Ted on the Inter Engine. I then started riding Trials and Brian raced the Inter. I bought another Inter and we started to sprint them at North Weald Airfield.
One day, whilst drinking tea at Ted’s house, we decided we should go to the Isle of Man Manx Grand Prix, Brian on his Dommie and Ted and Jim Doodes on Ted’s ES2. We just about survived as we were knocked off his Dommie on the first day. We have been many times since then but now we put the bikes in a Transit, making the journey easier.
After a lot of years, Brian and I still ride out together with Peter Bassett – another old Laindon biker.
So you see……….The Biker Boys from Primrose Hill are still around.
Why not visit them and reminisce about the motorcycle days.
Do you recognise the motorcycles